BORIS JOHNSON is facing a revolt by civic leaders as his sweeping new regional lockdown laws come into force tomorrow.
Mayor of Middlesbrough Andy Preston said he would ‘defy’ the rules, which also make it illegal for people from different households to meet indoors in parts of Liverpool, Warrington, Hartlepool and his home town. ‘This measure has been introduced based on factual inaccuracies and a monstrous and frightening lack of communication and ignorance,’ he said. ‘As things stand we defy the government.’
The clampdown is the latest in a string of ‘local’ controls that affect almost 18million people. Health secretary Matt Hancock pledged an extra £7million to support targeted areas but the extra funding was branded ‘a drop in the ocean’ by town and city chiefs.
They said there was no exit plan and accused the government of getting the details wrong and failing to properly consult them.
Hartlepool council leader Shane Moore told Sky News: ‘One of the things that we were very clear about was that we would not enter any form of restriction until we knew what the exit strategy was. And what’s very evident is that information is not forthcoming from the government.’
Metro mayor of Liverpool City Region Steve Rotheram added: ‘It’s a bit like Hotel California… you can check out but you can never leave.
‘Other areas have gone into restrictions and months later they are still there. We can’t afford that.’
Mr Hancock announced the lockdowns as he pledged an extra £7million funding for affected areas.
But mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson told BBC Radio Merseyside that the money was a ‘drop in the ocean’ and he was ‘deeply, deeply worried’ about businesses.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called for a ‘rapid review’ of the government’s policy of ‘piecemeal local rules’ — which critics say are confusing and inconsistent — rather than nationwide ones.
He said: ‘We have supported these restrictions, but we have now got over 50 areas in local restrictions, and over the weeks and months only one area has come out of these restrictions. We need a strategy, a road map, people need to have hope this is going to work.’
Mr Hancock said the new rules were vital to control the spread of Covid-19. He told MPs: ‘I understand how much of an imposition this is. I want rules like this to stay in place for as short a time as possible, I’m sure we all do.
‘The more people follow the rules and reduce their social contact, the quicker we can get Liverpool and the north-east back on their feet.’